What is Rheumatoid
Rheumatoid arthritis (rue-ma-TOYD arth-write-tis) is the second most common
type of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a "complete body" form
of arthritis. Typically, it involves soreness, stiffness, swelling, and a limiting
of movement of the joint linings. It can also cause soreness of internal organs.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) typically affects multiple joints at once. RA is
generally a chronic disease that continues to progress and cause pain and suffering.
Unfortunately, there is no known cure. It is the second most common form of
arthritis, behind Osteoarthritis. If left untreated, Rheumatoid Arthritis can
and usually does lead to permanent disability.
What are the symptoms?
Tenderness, swelling, pain, stiffness, a more limited range of motion are the
more common side effects. Stiffness is generally at its peak early in the
morning. The smaller and more distant joints such as the hands and feet are
generally the more intensely involved. RA can effect any joint however. In
addition, the systemic effects can include loss of energy, loss of appetite,
dry eyes and mouth (Sjogren's Syndrome), low grade fevers, rheumatoid
nodules (soft lumps around the arms). One of the biggest indicators of RA
is the morning stiffness that lasts for several hours to all day long.
Who gets Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Millions of people currently have Rheumatoid Arthritis. As the advancing Baby
Boomer generation continues to age, the amount of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis
is only going to increase. The majority of people with RA are women, but there
are many men who develop RA as well. It generally strikes the middle aged population,
but can develop as early as 20s – 30s.
We do not completely know what ultimately causes RA, but we do know that it
appears to be an autoimmune style of disorder in which parts of the body's
own immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints and the body. There may
be a genetic link.
What are some
of the available treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis?
While there is sadly no cure for Rhumatoid Arthritis, most therapies for reducing
symptoms are generally fairly to very effective at easing pain and slowing
the progression of the disease. Most treatments center around preventing disability
and loss of quality of life as well as providing continual maintenance care
to slow (in some cases very significantly) the progression of the disease.
Most Rheumatoid Arthritis therapies are drug related. Glucosamine, while helpful
for those who also have osteoarthritis, is generally not helpful for those
who just have Rheumatoid Arthritis.
How is Rheumatoid
Only your doctor can tell you for sure that you have RA, but the most common
methods of diagnosis include an analysis of symptoms, your medical history,
lab tests, a physical exam, x-rays, and possibly a test for the rheumatoid
factor. The rheumatoid factor is a test that detects an antibody that is found
in roughly 80% of people with RA. Please be aware that there is currently no
single test that will tell you if you do in fact have Rheumatoid Arthritis.